Philadelphia: Avil Printing Co. [for the Author], 1895. First Edition. 16mo. Engraved title-page (reproduced on front wrapper), 62 pp. including title-page with reproduction of a photograph of "Mary Anne, the Young Amanuensis" (slightly torn at the staples). Lacking wrappers. Worn, spine partially defective). Contemporary ownership inscription in pencil: "Benj[amin] Smith Lyman, Philadelphia, 8/5/96" (see below). Very good. Item #3513
Rare first edition of a cheap, self-published narrative of Japan, dictated by a blind mariner to his 10 year-old daughter. The author gives an account of a voyage from China to Japan by steamship, with very readable descriptions of views and scenes of both countries. In Chapter 10, the reader encounters a young, Japanese shopkeeper of greatly reduced circumstances, whose English husband has been lost at sea according to several official reports. The woman has a fair-haired daughter named Cheesie Marisan ("Little Miss Mary"). Suddenly the reader learns that this woman is Mrs. Ridgway, the wife of the author himself, and that Marisan is his daughter (she is the 10 year-old girl who is depicted on the title-page, holding a pen). Presumably the "thrilling" part of the story which is mentioned in the title itself is a reference to the fact that Mr. Ridgway was not dead after all; indeed, while returning to him by steamship, the wife and child encounter a fierce gale which nearly kills little Marisan. Happily, the little family reunite and all ends well.
But in fact, not everything ended well, because on page 1, the author states: "The following authentic narrative has been culled from my diary of thirty years' experience in foreign lands, and written by my eldest daughter, aged 10 years, the principal object of the publication being to provide means for the maintenance of my family, I having lately been afflicted with blindness, thus being disabled from following my own profession. Trusting that this, like my former humble efforts, and also other works which I am engaged upon will give entire satisfaction to my readers, I am, Yours very obediantly, C. Ridgway."
Our copy belongs to the first edition and is the only copy of it known to us. The title-page of the second edition reads "Revised and Enlarged Edition" (two institutional copies located: Countway Medical and Univ. of Melbourne). The two edition are definitely distinct: the first contains 62 pages, the second (printed on thicker paper) contains 64.
Charles Ridgway was the author of "Married and Didn't Know It: A Thrilling Story of Australia," likewise published in Philadelphia in 1895.
PROVENANCE: Benjamin Smith Lyman (1835-1920) was a successful mining engineer, scientist, surveyor, and amateur linguist (particularly of the Japanese language). Smith Lyman worked in Japan as a surveyor for the Japanese government from 1872-1879. Interestingly, he was a vegetarian for 54 years of his life, until his death at the age of 84.